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How to grow a music ministry for school age children

I serve a declining church. At one point, there was a good amount of families with children to draw from. Now, over the past few years, that number to draw from has declined. And, of course, those who are still around have commitments to music lessons, soccer, gymnastics and the list goes on and on and what to do? As a Music Director and one with a background in music ed, I believe it is so imperative to connect kids with music, but on a greater scale, connecting music along with faith. But how to get people in? I'm finding two major struggles. First is schedule. There's no easy way to solve that. Second is bodies. Right now, I'd be looking at maybe 5 in my K-3 chimes group and choir and 10 in my 4-8 choir and handbell group. Numbers-wise, I can do a good amount chorally, but with chimes, 5 kids, even if each are ringing 2 chimes, that's 10 notes. That's tough to make sound musical. And of course, the leadership of the church, and I think the church as a whole, expects that since I'm the "paid" full-time staff, it's my responsibility to magically make it happen. If not, I'm a failure. As I said to start this, my church is declining. Not in average age, but in average worship attendance, offerings, and pretty much everything else. And there seems to be no desire to change it. What I am looking for is ideas, insight in to how best to connect with kids in the community, or other ways to draw in people. I've encouraged kids to bring friends, and that hasn't brought much. I really don't want to go into being a gimmicky director, so that's not really my first choice. Any thoughts would help!
Replies (4): Threaded | Chronological
on April 24, 2013 9:12am
Thanks for the responses so far. I've spent time over the past few years talking with other directors at large and small congregations, Lutheran (my denomination) and other denominations. For many, it's the same challenge. How do you get kids to show up. More than that, how do you get parents to commit? When the kids are involved in lessons and sports, and other things, the parents pay in financially, so those things seem to take priority. There isn't as much of a financial "buy-in" with church events, so that seems to be lower on the list. At least, that's my discernment from the past few years. And while I understand that, the spiritual aspect of things is more of a lasting impact than soccer, gymnastics, or many other things. But how do you explain that in a tangible, understandable way for those who don't see it in those terms? One of the biggest challenges that I had earlier this spring with 5, was not only was it challenging enough when they all were there, but what do you do if you're missing about half? Since many are siblings, that's another challenge! A family conflict leads to 2-3 being gone, and when your groups are small, that's even more challenging. On top of that, my other joy has been lack of communication. I've had many parents that wouldn't let me know their child wouldn't be at rehearsal, or when asked, don't respond.
 I don't want to give up. I am currently exploring other options to see if God is wanting me to serve elsewhere in another capacity, but if I am continuing to serve at the congregation I am at, the biggest way that this congregation can grow isn't through the adult choir. It isn't through the adult handbell choir. It's really in connecting with children and their families. What that looks like and how that is implemented, that's what I'm trying to figure out.
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